|Photo courtesy of metrolic.com|
What are the first things that come to mind when you think about the UK?
Tea and crumpets? Big Ben? Prince William?
All fine answers. Now, your list probably doesn’t include cupcakes. It’s okay; I understand, really. But if you’ve been reading this blog for any appreciable length of time, you’ll know that my sisters and I have a deep affinity for these darlings of the baked good world, and we manage to find a way to work them into any occasion, if not all.
So what was the most recent of these occasions?
Well, my dear Middle Chip has decided to spend her fall semester abroad in jolly ol’ England. She departs in just under three weeks–I can’t believe it! And so this weekend, we had all of our extended family and friends over for a UK-themed Bon Voyage party. It was, to quote the lovely Julie Andrews, “practically perfect in every way.”
My mom was super impressed with the presentation of these chocolate peanut butter cupcakes I baked a while back–so much so that she asked me to bake two batches of cupcakes for this party and use my piping bags to frost them (thank you, Wilton star tip, via Charlie!). But how to make these cupcakes fit the rest of the festivities?
Middle Chip and I brainstormed a bit and decided to use the Union Jack as our inspiration. Each of us had recently received a cupcake mix from Williams Sonoma–she a vanilla, I a red velvet–and had been itching to try them out anyway. What if, we thought, we baked up both of those batches, frosted them with cream cheese and vanilla frostings (courtesy of my girl Betty Crocker and the fine folks at Duncan Hines, respectively), and stuck mini Union Jacks in them? Undoubtedly these could then be deemed British Cupcakes.
It was a plan. Break out the mixer!
|Look at how red the batter is!|
The mix was really user-friendly: both required only the addition of water, vegetable oil, and eggs. They cooked up exactly within the time frame the box predicted (16-18 minutes, if you’re curious) and popped out of the cupcakes tins with no problem. The only complaint I would voice is that the mixes aren’t big enough–the box is supposed to make 12 cupcakes, but I only got 9 from the red velvet and 10 from the vanilla. I filled my cupcake wrappers 2/3 of the way full, as I normally do, and you can even see from the pictures above that some of the cupcakes are on the small side. If I’d tried to make the batter stretch to 12 cupcakes, I would have had a bunch of shrimpy confections!
That said, these cupcakes were definitely a hit at the party. I sampled one of the red velvet ones myself, and the consistency of the cake was great–moist but a little bit dense, which I prefer over an airy, crumb-y cupcake. My dad sampled one of the vanilla batch (although I topped his with chocolate [not pictured–totally messed with the theme] since he’s a bit of a picky cupcake eater), and he deemed them “phenomenal.” It takes a lot to make my dad use four-syllable adjectives when it comes to food!
(Why yes, I was playing with the focal black & white in Picasa, why do you ask?)
Let’s face it. Box mixes are convenient, they’re easy to work with, and they’re almost always a crowd-pleaser. So if you’re baking for an occasion like this one–a family party with lots of kids, where you didn’t have a lot of time beforehand to fuss with from-scratch recipes–pick a mix you know is going to turn out yummy. I recommend these Williams Sonoma mixes wholeheartedly!
And just in case you wanted to see what some of the other treats we served were…
Scones!! (Regular and chocolate chip.)
More scones!! (Raisin and regular, made by our wonderful family friends.)
And of course…a big ol’ sheet cake! (The buttercream roses are my favorite. I think I stole like five.)
At least now I know what to serve if Will and Kate ever decide to pop by for tea…pip pip, cheerio!